God’s Place In My Life

Text: Genesis 30

Proposition: Hope, peace and wisdom all come from knowing God’s place in my life.

Introduction: Are you familiar with the story of Israel’s captivity in Egypt, the deliverance of the nation by God through an unlikely hero named Moses? Maybe you’ve shown your kids the Prince of Egypt video that details the story through its Disney lens. What we miss about the story of the Israel’s captivity is that Egypt served as a womb in which to grow the nation of Israel. The story we are going to look at today happened many years before that  but it was a similar captivity, a similar time of being blessed and built up, a similar time of being released at just the right moment. The details of this chapter are bizarre, the methods strange to say the least but the end purpose is quite clear… it was the refining and building of a leader and by extension the conceiving of a nation. The leaders name is Jacob, a son in exile, a man who we would not wanted to get close to because he was a deceiver, a man whom God was in the process of changing. If you read Genesis 29 you’ll see that this man ended up marrying two sisters. The animosity between the two is evident as they compete for his affection by having children, even to the point of using their hand maids to be surrogate mothers on their behalf. In seven years twelve children are born to Jacob. Here’s the summary of what that looked like:

Leah Zilpah                           Rachel Bilhah

1.Reuben -The Lord sees               7. Gad - Troop            12. Joseph – Jehovah has       5.Dan- A Judge

2.Simeon -The Lord hears             8. Asher - Happy                                  added                   6.Naphtali - Wrestling

3.Levi -   Joined to

4.Judah - Praised

9.Issachar - There is Recompense

10. Zebulun - Exalted

11. Dinah- Judgment

Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel but was tricked into marrying Leah first, by her father. Leah was the first to have children, four in a row. In the next three years eight children would be born by four women. Have a look at  Genesis 30.

I. Envy Can Tempt Us To Take God’s Place.

When Rachel saw Leah have four children one after the other she became consumed with envy.  Envy is different from jealousy. Jealousy involves three parties, me, you, and who or what you have. Envy is different, it really only involves two parties, me and you. Envy blinds us to the point that the good I have already, I can’t see, all I can see is the opponent. It isn’t even wanting to get what the other has, it’s more about winning and thus being better than the other. Hence Rachel, who has the love of Jacob more so than Leah, doesn’t see that, all she sees is Leah winning. Envy has been called one of the most complex emotions, it is in effect a deep sense of pain that causes a person to do irrational, compulsive and destructive behaviors. You see it in Rachel’s demand upon Jacob, “Give me children or else I die.” James 3:16 says, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” When we aren’t thinking clearly, the enemy of our souls is, Satan takes every advantage that confusion offers.

So how does envy tempt us to take the place of God? Is it possible that envy tempts us to judge ourselves in a way that only God has the right to? With envy we judge ourselves in comparison to others, who they are we seek to surpass so that we would increase in worth, esteem, even identity. Envy is painful because it harbors a sense of self contempt in that we feel not good enough. The feeling is entirely self- contained since the person we are envious of may not even be aware of it. In that sense it is self contempt, it is caused by me taking the place of God and appraising who I am based on what only I can see. So how do you get unhooked from envy? It begins by realizing I’ve been believing lies instead of truth. If Rachel could have seen the truth that God had chosen her, gone to great effort and distance to draw her to Jacob, that He would through her bring forth a son that would rescue all Israel, a son named Joseph, and that there was yet one more son to be born, then the envy would be undone. Truth would displace the lie. So what does God think of you, who does He see in you? Certainly there is the presence of sin in each of us and yet God sees more than just that. He sees in you the unique creation that He has made you to be. He has chosen you to know Him, it’s why you’re even listening to these words. He travelled a great distance to bring you to Himself, from heaven to earth, from the glory of the Father into a human state in the person of Jesus. Through His Son He has planned a rescue from sin for all mankind that will receive Him. That’s the truth of who we are and it undoes the cords of envy.

When envy is displaced what takes its place is hope, love and wisdom. Hope because we see a true future, love because we see others differently, wisdom because we now are able to rightly apply the knowledge of who we are.

II. God’s Place In My Life Comes When I Surrender my Place.

This chapter can seem to be all about fertility, women able to conceive and have children, flocks of sheep and goats able to conceive in a unique way that even today we don’t understand. The last half of this chapter is Jacob telling Laban that the seven years he’s worked in order to marry Rachel have been fulfilled. Now he proposes that he will work for another number of years in order to build up his own flocks. The plan Jacob proposes is quite simple, every sheep or goat that is spotted or multi-colored will belong to Jacob. The solid color animals, which the vast majority of the flocks usually were would be Labans’. Laban immediately sees a bargain and separates the speckled sheep from the plain ones and has the speckled group moved a three day journey away so they can’t cross breed and create more. Jacob agrees with this and when Laban leaves he does this strange thing. He partly peels some branches of green poplar, some more from the almond trees and some from the chestnut trees. Then he takes these striped branches and puts them in front of the drinking troughs and feeding troughs and leaves them there. So you have plain colored sheep coming to drink and when they drink they look and see the striped branches and…well we’re not sure what happened. What we are told is that more and more they began to have speckled offspring. Jacob helped things along by putting the stronger stock in front of the rods and not the weaker so the stronger stock were giving speckled lambs. Can a shepherd affect the color of the lambs produced? I wonder if this is more about a man doing what he can and then surrendering the outcome to God. In the next chapter Jacob tells his wives that one day he was down watching over the sheep he has this vision, almost like dream. In the vision the Angel of God is there in front of him telling him to look at the rams that were breeding. Jacob looks and no doubt to his eyes they were plain color rams but the Angel says, “Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled and gray  spotted…”.

There’s an incredible thing that happens when we surrender our place of being in control, or at least we thought we were, and we invite God to take His place in our life. Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, we actually do keep surrendering our will to God. It’s easy to say that we believe in God and trust Him and though God takes us at our word instantly and is ready to move now, we tend to move more slowly. We see God at work and we’re surprised, we see God at work and we’re encouraged, we see God at work and we believe more, we see God at work and we surrender more. Do you know how long Jacob watched those lambs come out speckled and gray spotted? In chapter 31 it tells us that Jacob served Laban for six more years doing this breeding program. Do you remember how we started today, talking about how God used Egypt and the captivity they imposed upon Israel as a time to grow this fragile nation? Do you see the similarity of what is happening here, where God uses hardship, injustice, frustration and twenty years of a man’s life to ready him, to transform him from a small, self centered man to become a man ready to carry the purposes of God.

Just as Jacob’s captivity, transformation, increase and release are a small picture of what God would one day do with Israel in Egypt, even so what He does in your life and my life is similar. There will be times when you feel like your options are few, when the future is bleak, when frustration and maybe even injustice surrounds you like a captivity. Maybe you could say that it even surrounds you like womb. A place where God will create new life, different than what was ever before, some call it being born again. God’s place in my life comes as I surrender my place, I choose to agree with what He is setting right in front of me. I turn from the way I was going and by faith in Jesus Christ I am made new. He now takes my place.

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